Part –I: We don’t live, we survive
Surely, none would like the idea of their train running late by 13 hours and in addition, you are compelled to spend the night at railway station in bone-chilling cold. It’s terrible, isn't it? Well. I shared similar thoughts as I disembarked at New Delhi railway station aloof from the horde that jostled past me; I was rather engrossed cursing the Northern India Railways and North Indian weather. I had this tingle of frustration which soon transformed into anguish as Delhi’s chill began to gnaw at my flesh penetrating through the several layers of insulation that so wonderfully decorated me. I often used to wonder, ‘Do people actually die out of cold?’ (I have my answer now). So my animal’s instinct of survival kicked in and out of desperation I rushed towards “Mustard”, an AC restaurant outside New Delhi Station. From now on starts a struggle for survival which will soon turn into a wonderful experience worth sharing.
Once you get into a cozy restaurant with not to mention Delhi’s beautiful ambience (if you are smiling, you got it right), you don’t really feel like leaving the place and that was my plan to begin with.
Survival Strategy 1: Stay as long as you can in this restaurant without spending much.
Survival Strategy 1 initiated. The first thing my eyes fell on was a disappointment in itself, the board that said, CLOSES AT 12. So, I had to spend three hours without spending more than 150 bucks. I searched for any signs of slow service which may prove helpful but it was futile. You can’t really expect it from a self-service railway restaurant; quick provision is their speciality. So, I decided not to order anything for a while and dug my head in TOI started to read an essay on Modi vs Gandhis by Chetan Bhagat. When you are whiling time even Chetan Bhagat is a good read or maybe it was just an intriguing topic. I suddenly noticed a staff sneering at me, avoiding him I returned to newspaper. After a minute or so, I called that staff and recited my order fully aware that it was self-service restaurant. It was all part a grand plan after all. Then rest of it went as I intended it to be he informed how to order. I thanked him apologised for not observing, I order a sandwich, a Pepsi and a coffee separately each after an interval of 30-40 minutes and thus managed to stay for 3 hours spending only 120 bucks before I was kicked out at 12. Survival Strategy 1 successful.
I decided to get back in the station and moved to Waiting Lobby. There is one good thing about stations in Delhi. There are always too many specimens around you to observe. So I bought a yellow packet of Lays and carefully chose a place so that I have a clear vista of most of the people and continued with the plan.
Survival Strategy 2: Sit in the Waiting Lobby and figure out which states different passengers belong to.
Survival Strategy 2 initiated. I shall tell you the pre-requisites of this strategy are a bit of geography, you keenness to interact with people of all sorts but most importantly your ability to pay heed to intricate details if you are not that type you can stickler to toddler strategies such counting boggies of trains etc.. However, being from an IIT and it has nothing to do with my intelligence. It’s because I get to interact with students from several parts of nation in our cosmopolitan campus, in fact this is what many of us do for four long years, Interact. So, I am familiar with almost all the common languages; I can’t understand them, I can just recognize them by the way they are spoken. However, they are several other ways too.
Let us take a few examples: There is a family where the wife is doing most of the talking, the husband seems dignified but remains silent shredding words once in a while you have Bongs there. Similarly, someone with a grave sense of fashion and disrespect for presentation and a habit of improvising the surrounding is certainly (that’s not me though certain traits do apply) from East UP or Bihar, you merely need the accent to pin point.
Moving on, there was a group of people with Mongoloid features and superb dressing sense, they must be from the sisters but I wanted to figure out the state and then I noticed something written on a side bag an elderly woman in the group was carrying which was apparently an address. Most of it was not visible however I spotted Mokokchung which was enough to determine that they were from Nagaland (Thanks to my awesome geography. Kidding! I read it in some story once so I just got lucky there).
It seems we haven’t moved at all from the last time I said moving on and I got obsessed with the topic. So finally moving on, I would like to add that while carrying this out you often get to make rather funny observations. I found out that there was a Telugu couple: pretty wife and not so handsome husband and that pretty wife kept eyeing a Punjabi guy who had a hot wife (whom I was checking).
I was doing great with my strategy when my ears picked up Saharanpur in some railway announcement. I mustered all my concentration, as I could not afford to miss its repeat. My mind started racing, making assumptions. I wasn't expecting a train at this time. But,! I might get lucky May be a train somehow got delayed and I can catch it now? However, all these thoughts were set aside as the mechanical voice that blurted out from several speakers
Blah Blah Blah se Nayi Dilli aane wali, blah blah Saharanpur k raaste blah blah blah ko jane waali, blah blah express aaj radd kar di gayi h. Yatriyon ki ashuvidha k liye hume khed h.
My train was cancelled. I took out my cell and rushed towards the enquiry.
Survival Strategy 2 aborted.
Screw You Delhi.